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Mary of the 4th Form lyric review

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diademgrove

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« on: November 28, 2016, 09:14:49 PM »
Boydie suggested I do a lyric review of Mary of the 4th Form by the Boomtown Rats as a contrast to the Police's Don't Stand So Close to Me.

Here's the Don't Stand So Close thread:

http://www.songwriterforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=11666.0

I found the Police lyrics clever but cold. They didn't do anything for me as can be seen frrom my contributions.

This is the Boomtown Rats song Mary of the 4th Form



Sittin' in the front row
Mary of the fourth form
Turnin' all the boys down
She's turnin' all their heads around
Hitchin' up her short skirt
Stretchin' out her long legs
Pullin' up her stockings
She's combing out her black hair
Starin' at the teacher
Openin' her lips wide
Shiftin' in her seat. Yeah,
She slowly moves her hips aside

But in the middle of the night
She wakes her Mom to turn out the light
Her make-up's on and her jeans are skin tight
And she's heading to the Pillar Bar
Johnnie looks alright tonight she thinks
He gives her a smoke and he buys her a drink
He shoots a frame and they head off into the night.

Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.

Teacher's losing control
Thankfully the bell rings
Mary's left all alone
With no one but the teacher
She quickly drops her pencil
And slowly bends to get it
Teacher is a natural man
His hand moves out to touch her
She straightens and looks around, yeah
She laughs and leaves the room, yeah
Heartbreak for the teacher
Sweet dreams for young Mary

But in the middle of the night
She wakes her Dad to turn out the light
Her make-up's on and her jeans are skin tight
And she's headed to the Pillar Bar

Johnnie looks great tonight, she thinks
He gives her a smoke and he buys her a drink
Shoots a frame and they head off into the night.

Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.
Mary of the fourth form.


So why do I think its a better song.

First the school girl has a name. You also know her age roughly. In the 70s the fourth form was for 14 and 15 year olds.

Second the lyrics show you that she's attractive and she knows it. They also show that contradiction between being 14 and 15 and wanting to be an adult and still wanting to feel safe with your parents. The "turn out the lights part"

Johnnie is her link to the adult world that beckons.

The song provides a pen picture of Mary's life as well as the lust the teacher feels towards her.

From the age of 14 I tried to get served in pubs, sometimes successful, sometimes not. It was always easier for females in my class to go out drinking around town. I wasn't aware of any illicit relationships between teachers and pupils. The Boomtown Rats song is more in keeping with my experiences growing up.

The Police song on the other hand is a simple statement of fact. The teacher is having sex in his car with somebody half his age and there is plenty of gossip about the affair. The lyrics don't show any love or lust in the relationship, its like reading a court report in the London Times.

Finally, the music is better, in my opinion.

Keith



 


JolieThePassenger

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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2016, 12:45:22 AM »
Thanks for posting this.  I kept meaning to get around to finding this song after the earlier thread, as you did pique my curiosity! 

I read it a few hours ago and wanted to come back to it to check my thoughts about it.  While there's much to commend it, there's almost too much in there for me.  I'm not sure I'm such a fan of an explicitly painted picture (although I'm sure I'll contradict myself on this at some point!).  I think I like having 'spaces' between the lyrics to create my own rich tapestry of understanding, if you know what I mean. 

I'm not a die-hard Police fan, although I rate many of their songs, but on balance I think I prefer the economy of words to communicate a tricky subject. 

What I do like though, that you specifically mentioned, is the poignancy of wanting to be reassured by her parents, and having one foot in the world of being a little girl, and the other stretching out into adulthood.  You're right - it's very effective.

I haven't commented on song structure and the music itself as I'm just not knowledgeable enough about either to offer a useful point of view. 

Thanks again for posting - I'll read other comments with interest. 

 
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diademgrove

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« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2016, 09:39:49 PM »
Hi Jolie,

looks like its just me and thee. I know what you mean about the songs explicit lyrics but nothing really happens. She pulls up her socks, moves her hips, goes to the pub, asks her mum/dad to turn out the light and teases the teacher. Anything else is in your head, which is a sign of good lyrics, whatever the subject.

The main difference for me between the songs is Mary is a person with feelings and desires, as is the teacher. I just don't get that from the Police song.

Lust and desire are exciting which is what you get in the main musical parts of the Boomtown Rats song. The pre-chorus (the turn out the lights bit) is slower and adds a musical question mark to the verses. It reflects the doubts and reassurances Mary wants.

Both songs belong to a different era. The majority of the Boomtown Rats audience would have been school kids up to early 20s. Most of their audience would be at school or had recently left. Every school would have had a Mary but not every school would have had a pupil having a fling with a teacher.

Thanks for the comments,

Keith